Volunteer in Belgium

Support the social integration and daily activities of people with mental disability
Brussels, Namur, Aywaille, Bierge       3 to 12 months

Volunteer project: The project is organised with a Center for people with mental disability, which is dedicated to providing safe environment and social integration to its residents and has a long tradition of welcoming volunteers of all countries, of different social and cultural backgrounds. The center has 4 houses located near the European institutions in Brussels.

The originality of these small houses is based on a family like atmosphere, where people having mental disabilities, professionals and volunteers of all origins, social, cultural backgrounds, ages and beliefs walk side by side and help each other in their daily lives. Each one is invited to assume tasks and responsibilities adapted to his capacities and to take part in the activities proposed by this type of structure.

The proposed activities are ordinary and “extra-ordinary”: daily responsibilities (maintenance, attendance, cooking, etc.), supporting residents (accompanying, transport, support in different learning and working projects), number of meetings, leisure activities, celebrations, holidays, etc.

In addition to the life in the houses, which is really the key point, there's also a day center where activities like craft-work, occupational therapies or services are proposed to the wider community.

The residents are between 18 and 70 years old and have various forms of developmental disabilities (most often Down syndrome) exceptionally linked with a physical handicap. They are assisted by teams of professionals (teachers, welfare officers, etc.) supported by volunteers. The aim is to ensure an adequate approach and relationship among volunteers and the residents.

Volunteer work: The volunteers will provide support, will collaborate on different education tasks and various forms of aid involved in the care of people with mental disabilities.

Among the activities proposed to the volunteers we distinguish:

§ Assisting with everyday domestic activities:
- Maintenance: cleaning and arrangement of common spaces with the residents,
- Logistic: purchase of equipment and foodstuffs,
- Daily services: cooking, waking up residents, dishwashing, talks, improvement of living and activity spaces, etc.

§ Support for the people with learning disabilities:
- Joining a member of the educational team for medical consultations, going to the pharmacy, to do shopping, etc.
- Help with apprenticeship programs: cooking, clothing, shopping, walks, etc.
- Accompanying residents on the way to the work place or leisure activities (e.g. soccer)

§ Internal meetings in the houses and the day center:
- Weekly meetings with all residents: discussing and exchanging ideas in order to prepare activities.
- Team meetings: evaluation of the individual projects, suggestions…
- Celebrations: birthdays, visits, welcoming new residents, etc.

§ Meetings outside the houses and the day center:
- Monthly meetings or festivities with other residents of the center
- Meetings and festivities with other associations in Belgium (mainly from the French speaking part)
- Meetings with other organizations

§ Joining in the weekend and evening leisure activities with the residents:
- Individual activities: workshops, outings, visits, sport and recreation
- Group activities: performances, walks, excursions, etc.

§ Internal training at the center:
- On matters related to intellectual disability, communication, teamwork, etc.
- Theme lectures by experts
- Learning French: conversations in groups supervised by qualified volunteers

§ Training and activities outside the center:
- With different socio-cultural associations working with the center
- French language course in a public school

The role of the volunteers will be above all to acquire experiences, to learn by doing, to express their competences by their implication in the project. Each volunteer is thus invited, according to his personal rhythm, to let his personality grow, to bring his creativity and his dynamism in daily life.
Each volunteer will have a Tutor to facilitate his/her integration.

Free time: Volunteers will have three hours of free time each day, with evening and weekend off.
Bruxelles, the Capital of Europe, is a multicultural city with a thousand faces: a majestic historic centre, a unique ambiance, a huge array of activities for both younger and older people. Visit the Manneken-Pis, the Atomium, the Art Nouveau Houses (Horta) and the Belgian Strip Cartoon Centre. And last but not least, taste our famous chocolate!

Profile of the volunteer: The volunteers must be between 18 and 35 years of age, be open to different experiences, and motivated to dedicate themselves to the less privileged people in our society. A minimum commitment of 3 months is required. The volunteers must be ready to take responsibilities and initiatives, and to be able to cooperate with the team and the residents.
Knowledge of French is desirable but not required. The volunteers will have the opportunity to attend French classes on site if interested.

Language: French, English

Documents to be submitted: A motivation letter and a resume should be sent along with the application form.

Duration of the project: Minimum stay of 3 months is required.

Accommodation: In a house, with a shower, washing machine, and kitchen. Sleeping bag is needed. Within each house, the volunteer has a "private space" - a small bedroom. However in order to guarantee each volunteer a well balanced life, a place for relaxation and recovering outside of the house has also been arranged for his/her free time. The house is near a supermarket, a cinema, a bakery, and a train station.

Location: Brussels, Namur, Aywaille, Bierge

Age range: 18 - 35 years old

Pocket money: The volunteers get an allowance of 140 Euro per month.

Participation fee: $690 CAD (about $510 US)

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Support the programs and operation of an educational farm in Belgium
Stoumont       2 weeks to 4 months

Volunteer project: In this project, volunteers will support an educational farm located in Stoumont, in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes. The farm welcomes groups and individuals for farm visits, environmental education sessions, bird-watching tours, donkey rides and thematic weekends (basket weaving, traditional dances, baking, etc.). It has a residential center for children, tourists, families and hikers. The aim is to allow people of all ages and backgrounds to discover nature and farming, as well as to promote and raise awareness about responsible consumerism.

The farm offers a wide array of programs and activities for school groups, children with disabilities, interns, families, disadvantaged people, etc. The activities are specifically tailored to the needs of each group. For instance, children can visit the pens, observe and pet the animals, learn about their behaviour, help feeding the animals and cleaning the barn, learn to milk a cow or a goat, learn to make bread, butter and cheese, ride a donkey or a pony, explore the environment, learn about healthy eating, hike in the forest and learn about the different trees, discover the amazing variety of bird, amphibian and insect species, test their navigation and topographical skills. The programs are also adapted for children with disabilities who greatly enjoy and benefit from the farm and nature experience. The farm also hosts small groups or individuals with socially and economically disadvantaged background and provides them with training in the filed of farming or socio-cultural activities in order to support their reintegration in mainstream society and workforce.

Volunteer work: Volunteers can either help with the educational sessions or work on the farm. They can choose which program to join according to their skills and preferences. Those who choose to work on the educational project will supervise groups of children. Those who prefer manual work will work on the farm (feeding animals, cleaning the barn, etc.).

Volunteers must be aware that farm work can be physically demanding. Volunteers will always be under supervision, they will not be left alone. They will help local farm workers and will be taught how to do the different tasks.
The work schedule will depend on the current needs. The farm works 24h a day. At some times, there will be work for more than 8 hours.

The educational sessions for children take place in the summer. During those sessions, children have activities from 9 am to 4 pm (walking in the forest, taking care of the animals, making bread, etc.). After 4 pm, it will be necessary to organize games, dinner, showers, night walks and breakfast. Some groups (3 to 15 years old) come for day visits only; other groups (6 to 15 years old) come for an extended stay.

Profile of the volunteer:
• To like interacting with people with disabilities and disadvantaged people.
• To be fond of animals and outdoor activities.
• To like organizing games and activities for children.
• To have been vaccinated against tetanus.
• Not to be allergic to milk, flour, dust or animals.
• To speak a little bit of French

Language: French, English

Duration of the project: The project is running from June 1 to September 30. Minimum stay of 2 weeks is required.

Accommodation: The volunteers will sleep in tents. You need to bring a tent, a sleeping bag and a camping mattress. Internet access is provided.

Location: Stoumont, in the Province of Liege, Walloon Region. It is a quiet village, surrounded by forests, and a perfect place for hiking.

Age range: 18 and over

Participation fee: $690 CAD (about $510 US)

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Care, support and social inclusion for people with intellectual disability
Brussels, Bierge, Rhode-Saint-Genèse       3 to 12 months

Volunteer project: The project is organised with a Center for people with intellectual disability, which consists of three houses and one day center welcoming people with a light to moderate intellectual disability. They offer supportive family environment to people who are supervised by professionals and volunteers.

During the day, the majority of the clients work in sheltered workshops, others go to the day center. The Center's mission is to create, manage and run activities and places for living and working for its clients, in order to ensure social integration and quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities.

The diversity of social contacts is beneficial for the residents. That is why we want to enrich their lives and strengthen community spirit by welcoming international volunteers for a period of 3 to 12 months, who must have the desire to live every day with people with disabilities in a family-like, friendly and supportive environment.

This project is seen as an opportunity to welcome dynamic and self-willed international volunteers, to pursue the objective of welcoming people with intellectual disability in our society. Living with these people is a humanly rich and intense life experience. Accompanying them daily brings us simplicity and authenticity and by mixing with them, we learn to accept everyone as a unique person, rich with his/her own differences.
For the volunteers, this community life project is a unique opportunity to broaden their mind, to gain experience in social work and civic engagement. The center has been hosting international volunteers for nearly six years. Volunteers will take an important place in the houses and we wish to put in place all that is necessary for a positive experience and fruitful exchange.

Volunteer work: The volunteers will have to take an active role in the houses and the day center in order to help the residents in their daily life. They will be supported by a person in charge at all times. Volunteers are encouraged to take initiative for specific activities or organise new workshops based on their experience and skills (e.g. language lessons, sport, artistic activities, etc.). The role of the volunteers is also to share their culture and knowledge. The volunteers will have the opportunity to get experience in group management, conflict resolution, activities preparation and running, as well as different working techniques necessary to manage a group of adults with mental disability.

Volunteer duties in the houses:
• Attending all house and team meetings
• Preparing menu lists for the week
• Participation in the weekly shopping
• Preparing the menu of the day
• Helping in the garden and buildings
• Welcoming the residents when they come back from their activities
• Accompanying the residents in common activities during evenings and weekends
• Accompanying the residents to medical appointments
• Helping residents with waking up and having breakfast
• Helping people to manage their time
• Reminding residents about hygiene (changing clothes, personal care)

Volunteer duties in the day center:
• Helping the person in charge with the organisation of the activity calendar
• Helping residents with shopping and cooking
• Helping the person in charge with group activities and with the running of these activities
• Meeting parents to put in place individual projects and the annual assessment
• Attending team meetings of the day center
• Attending extra activities (tours, holidays …)

The teams in the three houses and the day center collaborate regularly and integrate volunteers’ participation in their daily operation in order to offer the residents a rich social environment. The volunteers are part of the team, and participate in every aspect of the work of the center, including staff meetings and community life. Volunteers will work with the residents of the houses in the evenings (4pm to 9.30pm), sometimes in the morning (6am to 8am), and some weekends (from Friday 3.30pm to Sunday 10pm), for a maximum of 35h/week. In the day center, the timetable is: Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm for a maximum of 35h/week. The exact timetable will be set together with the volunteers in order to accommodate their preferences. It will also take into account the French lessons (for max. 5h/week).

The center closes for 3 weeks in July and for a week for Christmas, and holidays are organized for the clients at this time. Volunteers can participate in those holidays if they wish.

Free time: Bruxelles, the Capital of Europe, is a multicultural city with a thousand faces: a majestic historic centre, a unique ambiance, a huge array of activities for both younger and older people. Visit the Manneken-Pis, the Atomium, the Art Nouveau Houses (Horta) and the Belgian Strip Cartoon Centre. And last but not least, taste the famous Belgian chocolate!

Profile of the volunteer: The volunteer must be between 18 and 35 years of age, highly motivated and having the maturity needed to face daily life with disabled people. Prior knowledge of French is essential in order to be able to communicate with the residents and avoid misunderstandings that could frighten or upset some of them. The houses need volunteers who are dynamic, motivated, keen to learn and to take initiative, able to question themselves, and to accept instructions from the staff. You also need to be aware that for several months you will be living with people whose daily life is totally different from yours. Be ready, if necessary, to learn about mental disability, autism, psychosis and other syndromes.
The volunteer will have the opportunity to attend French classes on site if interested.

Language: French, English

Documents to be submitted: A motivation letter and a resume should be sent along with the application form.

Duration of the project: 3 to 12 months

Accommodation: In a small apartment on site. A phone and free internet access is provided for the volunteers. Washing machine is available. There is a bicycle in every house.

Location: Ixelles, Brussels; Bierge; Rhode-Saint-Genèse

Age range: 18 - 35 years old

Pocket money: The volunteers get an allowance of 120 Euro per month.

Participation fee: $690 CAD (about $510 US)

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Improving the social well-being of people with physical disabilities
Ophain       6 to 12 months

Volunteer project: The project is organised with a Home for people with physical disabilities which currently hosts 18 adults with cerebral palsy. The goal is to guarantee them an adapted living space while remaining oriented to the outside world. Each resident participates in the daily tasks according to their capacities. They are supported by a multidisciplinary team of educators, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nurses, social workers, and physiotherapists, where everyone takes care of the patient individually within a group.

The different aspects of life in the home include:
§ House life: cooking, food stock management, clothing storage, cleaning of the kitchen.
§ Indoor activities: theatre, boccia (adapted bocce), sport, painting, expression, media, comics, well-being.
§ Outdoor activities: pool, hippotherapy, groceries, cultural events.
§ Seasonal activities: music festival, adapted bikes, painting exposition, Christmas market.

The staff is composed of 14 specialized educators, 2 occupational therapists, 2 speech therapists, a social worker, a director, a psychologist, and a responsible for administration and finances. Moreover, 3 independent physiotherapists and a team of independent nurses also work within the home.

Volunteer work: A volunteer on this project would take part in the community life in the home along with the staff. This includes accompanying the residents for meals and other aspects of their life:
- Daily living activities: cooking, food stock management,
- Leisure and creative activities: theatre, well-being, painting, expression, comics,
- Outdoor activities: groceries, cultural events, sport,
- Interaction with the disabled people, French lessons, group entertainment, project implementation.
Medical or personal care tasks such as bathing, putting to bed, waking up, etc. will not be required of the volunteer.

Free time: Bruxelles, the Capital of Europe, is a multicultural city with a thousand faces: a majestic historic centre, a unique ambiance, a huge array of activities for both younger and older people. Visit the Manneken-Pis, the Atomium, the Art Nouveau Houses (Horta) and the Belgian Strip Cartoon Centre. And last but not least, taste the famous Belgian chocolate!

Profile of the volunteer: The home wishes to host sensitive individuals who are concerned with disability issues. Thus, we are looking for people with the adequate maturity to deal with the daily difficulties that came up when living with people with motor disabilities. Knowledge of French is required, as residents only speak French. Indeed, some of the residents need clear instructions in order to avoid misunderstandings leading to fear or even anger. In addition, we would like dynamic and motivated volunteers, willing to learn, ready to take initiatives, able to question themselves and to accept guidance and remarks from supervisors, and finally volunteers are prepared to live for several months with people who have a way of life completely different from their own.

Language: French, English

Documents to be submitted: A motivation letter and a resume should be sent along with the application form.

Duration of the project: 6 to 12 months

Accommodation: Private accommodation on the first floor of the building (room with TV and Internet access), with private shower. A bike will be provided for the volunteer.

Location: The Home is located in a quiet and green neighborhood, in the village of Ophain, 3 kilometers away from the center of Braine-l’Alleud. It is accessible by bus, foot or bike. Braine-l’Alleud is a city with more than 39,000 inhabitants, with lots of shops and leisure activities. The town has a train station with trains reaching Brussels in less than 15 minutes.

Age range: 18 - 35 years old

Participation fee: $690 CAD (about $510 US)

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Be a Park Ranger in the Caves of Han Wildlife Reserve
Han-sur-Lesse       2 or 3 months

Volunteer project: The little village of Han-sur-Lesse, at the gateway to the Ardennes and one hour by road from Brussels, is home to one of the most famous caves on the continent, the Cave of Han. The Cave of Han is exceptional in terms of the beauty of its concretions and the immensity of its chambers fashioned by the river Lesse that flows through it from one side to the other.

Over 100,000 years ago the Lesse, a river flowing within the confines of the Ardennes, left its natural valley and forced its way into the limestone massif known as the Massif de Boine. It resurfaced 2 km further along, having crossed the massif from side to side. By crossing the massif, it contributed to the formation of an extraordinary network of underground caves, the Caves of Han.

This phenomenon of disappearance and re-emergence of a river is unique in Western Europe. The network of caves that has been discovered under the massif is of exceptional beauty. With their three stars in the Michelin Guide, the Caves of Han have been visited for 150 years and have already attracted over 20 million visitors.

The site of the Massif de Boine and of the “chavée”, the ancient abandoned valley of the Lesse, has been laid out as a nature reserve for wild animals: wolves, lynx, bears, bison, red deer, fallow deer, wild boar, ibex… This 250-hectare site of unspoilt nature allows you to contemplate these animals roaming free or semi-free in a natural setting of exceptional beauty.

Since the Neolithic age, the Han site has been known and venerated, and the place of the re-emergence of the Lesse became a cult and pilgrimage site. Very many archaeological objects have been discovered at the bottom of the Lesse and on its banks, probably thrown in as offerings.

An interactive exhibition and a museum will help you relive the “prehistory” of the Caves of Han and the daily rural life of the inhabitants of Han of a hundred years ago.

Volunteer work: The walking route in the Wildlife Reserve is about 2,5 kilometers long and allows the visitors to cross the upper part of the Reserve. During this walk, panoramas, lookouts and hides give one the opportunity to get as close as possible to nature and the animals. There can be around 500 people a day on this route. The safari bus will drop them off at the peak of the Massif de Boine and pick them up again at Tivoli, at the end of the walk, to complete the tour by bus in the plain where the animals roam semi-free.

The tasks of the volunteers are:
• To watch over the path, while walking and observing the visitors in order to guide and help them.
• To prevent the visitors from leaving the path and venturing in other parts of the Reserve (it could be dangerous because of wild animals).
• To ensure that the visitors do not damage equipment or harm the animals and that they do not engage in dangerous behaviors (like passing their hands through the enclosures), as well as that they do not disturb the environment (noise, garbage, etc.)
• To be in charge of activities and giving information along the path: to inform the visitors on practical questions (distances, timetable of the safari-bus, localization of rain shelters, etc.) and to provide further information concerning the animals and the nature to the visitors (a basic training in that field will be given to the volunteers upon arrival).
• To ensure the maintenance of the path: to empty the garbage cans and collect waste every evening; to complete some maintenance work such as painting of furniture.
• Certain days, to organize the pick-up of visitors by the safari-bus at the end of the path (while being in contact with the central service and the drivers of the safari-bus by phone).
• When there are less visitors, the volunteers can carry out other tasks from time to time, for example some maintenance work in the Reserve or to create pedagogic tools.
• Occasionally, participating in the preparation of different events which take place in the park.

The working hours are from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. with a break for lunch. The volunteers will work 5 days a week, which will generally include Saturday and Sunday.

The volunteers will be supervised by a mentor, and will be part of the team of experienced workers and volunteers, as well as many students working in the park during the holidays.

Transport from the reception of the caves to the site of the project is provided. The volunteers will be also provided with a bike for their own transportation on the walking path.

Profile of the volunteer:
• To like communicating with other people, to be outgoing and able to provide information.
• To be able to show authority towards the visitors when necessary.
• To love nature and animals, as well as walking and being outside.

It is necessary to have a good level of French. The volunteers need to understand and be understood by the people on the walking route to answer their questions and to guide them. Knowledge of other languages is also welcomed, such as English, German or Dutch.

Language: French, English

Duration of the project: The project is running from June 1 till September 30. Two or three month stay is required.

Accommodation: The volunteers will be hosted in a tourist inn just in front of the caves reception.

Location: Han-sur-Lesse, Namur Province

Age range: 18 and over

Participation fee: $690 CAD (about $510 US)

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Short-term projects in Belgium